What’s the Buzz with Electric Vehicles?
Electric vehicles (EV) are the shiny, relatively new transportation trend that has the market all charged up. From trailblazing millennials to sensible-spending retirees, this technology is proving to be the smart choice for forward-thinking consumers of all types – especially fans of clean energy. Many businesses in the private and public sectors of North Carolina have contributed to the state’s overall commitment to clean energy efforts lending their expertise with EV innovation and education.
Efficient Transportation minus Fuel Emissions = Electric Vehicles
There are two different types of electric vehicles: hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) that have both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor, and plug-in electric vehicle (PEVs) that operate solely on an electric motor with zero tailpipe emissions. The need for progressive automation, couple with fuel market factors, has been consistently driving more and more car buyers to make the switch to clean, rechargeable EVs.
Believe it or not, the first model of electric vehicle was developed in 1828. Fast forward almost 200 years, and the enigma of EV technology has eased enough to cause even the most skeptic car buyers to take a peek under the hood. What have they found after some basic research? That spending a little more money upfront ends up saving big results in the long run – on fuel costs and emissions. And that’s an investment that is both warranted and necessary in the big picture of transportation.
North Carolina Leads the Charge
No stranger to pioneering technology trends, North Carolina boasts EV success stories from all across the state. In Charlotte, Mark Oil and Nissan Motor Co. have teamed up to be the largest provider of electric charging facilities at BP gas stations in the area. With this agreement, 10 fast-charging stations have been installed across Charlotte, just one of 50 cities in the country with this program. The partnership also grants Nissan LEAF owners 2 free years of “No Charge to Charge” access to the stations. Outside of this co-op, there are over 160 public electric charging stations in North Carolina, giving plenty of opportunity for EV residents and visitors to travel untethered.
The Gas Price / Electric Vehicle Dependency
Not surprisingly, the purchasing trend for electric vehicles ebbs and flows with changing gasoline prices. In 2015, gas prices in the United States decreased almost 6% on average, granting gas-guzzling SUVs a temporary reprieve with lower costs to operate. Conversely, in years where rising oil prices have caused drivers to look closely at their gasoline spending, EVs became the more attractive purchasing option (the $7,500 federal tax credit didn’t hurt, either).
NC Municipalities Join the “EV-olution”
Reinforcing its leadership and commitment to clean and sustainable energy, the City of Durham recently added 4 Nissan LEAFs to its government fleet. These EVs easily meet the needs of its light-duty mobile city employees, operating on a single-charge range of 70 miles. The primary goal for the conversion was to reduce emissions, which ended up earning the city the #37 spot on the Government Green Fleet™ award program in 2016 — alongside neighbors UNC-Charlotte (#36), and an Honorable Mention company, BuildSense, Inc., in Durham, NC. To aid in the purchase of these vehicles, the City of Durham received funding from the Energy Efficiency Community Block Grant, and they are banking the mid- and long-term cost savings on fleet maintenance and fuel costs.
Greensboro is also making a major electric transportation transition, thanks to a hefty grant from Duke Energy and voter-approved bonds with federal funds. The “EV Charging Infrastructure Project” will provide funding for more than 200 public EV charging stations across NC for passenger vehicles, and a rapid-charging station for its first 2-3 electric buses, which are set to hit the roads by 2018. Over the next ten years, the city plans to convert its fleet of 47 diesel buses to all-electric, saving between $250k-400k in full lifecycle operating and maintenance costs.
NC Contributes to Global EV Advancement
It’s estimated that a quarter of the world’s cars will be electric by 2040, including models from Toyota, Nissan, General Motors, Tesla and Volkswagen. The sticking point in the meantime will be improving the charging technology to make EVs’ driving ranges competitive with gas-powered vehicles. Current EVs have a typical single-charge range of 25-85 miles (while the supercharged Tesla Model S outlier gets up to 265 miles on a single charge – for those willing to shell out the base price of $75,000+). To even the playing field, researchers at North Carolina State University are developing a new inverter technology that would improve efficiency and extend the charge range of electric cars (eventually including motorcycle and scooter operation). Surely, advancements will soon follow.
The economics of the situation make it clear: more car makers are sure to jump on the clean energy bandwagon to meet the private & public sectors’ need for compliant, affordable, feature-rich EVs. And if recent history is an accurate predictor of future success, NC will be at the forefront of the innovation movement.